Winthrop University

Winthrop picks Halpin to lead athletic department

Newly named Winthrop AD Ken Halpin and his family, wife Amber and sons, Jonathan (left) and Kenny.
Newly named Winthrop AD Ken Halpin and his family, wife Amber and sons, Jonathan (left) and Kenny.

After an extensive national search, Winthrop University has selected Ken Halpin as its new athletic director.

Halpin – the deputy athletic director at Eastern Washington University, in Cheney, Wash. – will begin work in Rock Hill on July 11 administering to all aspects of Winthrop’s NCAA Division I athletic program.

“Based on my interactions with Ken, feedback from campus and community stakeholders, and references from people who have worked with him, I believe he will be an outstanding addition to the university leadership team,” Winthrop President Dan Mahony said in a news release Monday.

Mahony said Halpin’s experience and insight working with a mid-major program, his commitment to diversity and gender equity and his “keen grasp” of the importance of promoting and marketing an athletic department were all pluses in his favor.

“It’s a tremendous hire,” said Bill Chaves, Eastern Washington’s athletic director. “Ken is very thoughtful, intelligent and he will think through how to do things in a unique way. He’s always thinking, ‘How can we do things potentially differently?’ – but also, ‘How can we use our resources and how can we create additional resources?’

“For where we are in the Division I landscape that’s the kind of the mindset you want from your leader.”

Halpin replaces Tom Hickman, who is retiring from Winthrop this summer. Hickman was Winthrop’s athletic director for more than 20 years and helped oversee $20 million in spending on facilities improvements. Hickman was the longest tenured A.D. in Winthrop’s athletics history, and also the longest current serving A.D. in the Big South Conference.

Halpin said in Monday’s news release he could not be more excited about the opportunity and the prospect of working closely with the department’s students, coaches and staff to help Winthrop reach its strategic goals.

“Any success that I have experienced during my career has come as a result of being associated with an amazing and diverse group of teammates,” he said. “This is what excites me about Winthrop – they have amazing people from diverse backgrounds. I am very much looking forward to all we will accomplish together as a team.”

Over the past five years at Eastern Washington, Halpin has served in multiple roles, most recently as deputy athletic director. In that role, he oversaw a range of responsibilities covering all external operations, including development, marketing, communications, ticketing, sponsorships, licensing, special projects and special events. He also was the sport supervisor for the men’s and women’s tennis programs.

“It wasn’t if he was gonna become an athletic director, it was when he was gonna become an athletic director,” said Chaves. “There’s only 351 of these chairs so you just never know when it’s gonna be. There’s gonna be some things that will come along that he’s just gonna have to handle that I know he’ll do very well with because he’s got great personal skills and great interpersonal skills, and those are attributes you really need for the position.”

Halpin was selected from an extensive applicant pool that the Winthrop search advisory committee narrowed to four finalists last month.

Ken Halpin continually and consistently distinguished himself throughout the search and selection process. The committee invested countless hours and energy to bring four exceptional candidates to campus. We are pleased that with Ken’s selection we have a leader who will build upon the good work and efforts of Tom Hickman.

Eduardo Prieto, chair of Winthrop’s athletic director search advisory committee

The other finalists were Howard University’s Shelley C. Davis, Florida Atlantic’s Melissa Dawson and Cal State Stanislaus’ Michael Matoso. Each candidate visited Winthrop’s campus several weeks ago and met with a variety of personnel and groups representing virtually all facets of the school, including current students and Rock Hill community leaders.

Halpin will be joined in his move to Rock Hill by his wife, Amber, and their two sons, Kenny, 8, and Jonathan, 3. The family looks forward to a new addition in November.

The Herald’s Bret McCormick contributed.

Halpin’s education background

Winthrop’s newly named athletic director, Ken Halpin, received a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Washington State University in 2015 and a master’s degree in sport administration from Gonzaga University in 2008, where he has taught as an adjunct professor in the sport management program for the past seven years. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in 2005, where he was an all-conference performer in both football and baseball.